Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Either/Or Thinking" in Church Construction

The way we use money is a point of contention in society at large and in the Church. We have those who use the words from Scripture: "What is the point of this extravagant waste...It could have been sold... and the money given to the poor." And then we have the words of Jesus: "The poor you will always will not always have me." We can choose to see one or the other or try to see both. It may be more a matter of a prudential judgement in individual situations rather than a black and white theoretical position for one or the other. A Catholic priest makes his point clear in one of the newsletters:

A prophet with a torch was running towards a new shrine, asked why he was going in the direction of the shrine with a torch he answered to burn the shrine down because the people were more interested in the building than of God.

In Solomon's day while building the temple, he levied taxes on the people and had them do compulsory labor. Representatives of the people went to the King to complain but to no avail: part of the reason for the division of the country into North and South.

The way they collected the funds in the building of St. Peter's Basilica was a trigger to bring about the division in the Church of the West.

The different religions have to build for their communities of believers but if this is not done with moderation and wisely, religion will be criticized and suffer.

In Korea because of the great numbers of Christians it is necessary to build churches and other buildings for parish use. Often when there is not a necessity we seen buildings put up and not used.

The priest mentioned in a recent trip to Europe he saw these large churches that were empty. They have become museums. Many are difficult to maintain. The Christians that do come out are very stingy in what they give go the church, so there are many financial problems.The Christians see that a great deal of money went into the building of the church and rectory and they do not desire to give any more, but choose to give to the poor in society. The priest mentioned that hearing this from the people made him sad, not that they were not giving to the Church but because their hearts were now far from the Church.

Many Koreans still do not own a house. The polarization of our society is taking place with a split between the rich and the poor. More people are getting poorer and many are feeling the burden of giving to the Church and drop out. Those in pastoral position do not want to burden the poor but they have to realize how the poor feel.

We can see from the Scriptures that Jesus was always on the side of the poor. If we distance ourselves from the poor we distance ourselves from Jesus.

In building a church, the church of our hearts can be destroyed. We hear this often and in not a few cases, a fact of life.

Probably there are those who see this as the price we are willing to pay for the growth of Catholicism here in Korea. Hopefully we can find ways to do both.


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